On this day — 155 years ago — my 3x great-grandfather, John Johnston, enlisted in the 24th Mississippi Infantry as a private in the Confederate army. He joined the Helen Johnstone Guards, later known as Company E, in Madison County, Mississippi. Although Mississippi governor John Pettus called for men to enlist for a three-year period, John agreed to serve for the war’s duration.
At age 37, John was likely one of the older volunteers in his company. He left behind wife Malinda and children Harriett and George in Leake County, and mustered with his battle unit at Marion Station, Lauderdale County, on October 21, 1861.
Dunbar Rowland’s Military History of Mississippi, 1803 – 1898, provides an account of the 24th Mississippi’s movements throughout the Civil War. Muster rolls from John’s military service record also give more detail about his activities. The following timeline draws information both sources in an effort to summarize John’s wartime experience:
September 15, 1861
John enlists as a private in the Helen Johnstone Guards at Camp Helen in Madison County, Mississippi.
October 21, 1861
John is mustered into service by Capt. J. D. Tolson at Marion Station, Lauderdale County, Mississippi. His unit constitutes part of Dowd’s Regiment, and becomes known as Company E, 24th Mississippi Infantry.
November 1861 – February 1862
John appears on the company’s muster rolls for this period; last paid on October 31 by Maj. E. J. Smith. Col. Dowd and the 24th Mississippi was ordered on November 22 to report to Gen. Robert E. Lee in Savannah, Georgia, to be supplied with arms. In December, the regiment moved to Fernandina, Florida, to defend the Confederate coast from Union navy expeditions. However, abandonment of the coast soon followed, and the regiment was ordered to Tennessee in late February.
March – April 1862
John appears on the company’s muster rolls for this period; last paid on February 28 by Maj. J. Anson. The 24th Mississippi was unable to leave Florida until late March due to limited railroad transportation. On March 31, the regiment arrived in Chattanooga, Tennessee and was placed under the command of Gen. S. B. Maxey. Maxey and 24th Mississippi were ordered on April 9 to Corinth, Mississippi.
May – June 1862
John appears on the company’s muster rolls for this period; last paid on April 30 by Capt. Howell. The 24th Mississippi remained in Corinth for the Siege of Corinth (also known as the First Battle of Corinth), which began on April 29 and lasted until the Confederates withdrew on May 30. Corinth was a strategic town at the intersection of two important railways. Its loss to the Union Army allowed Gen. U. S. Grant to establish operations and seize control of the Mississippi River Valley, especially the stronghold of Vicksburg, Mississippi, a year later. The 24th Mississippi pulled back to Tupelo, Mississippi, under the command of Gen. Bragg.
July – October 1862
John appears on the company’s muster rolls for this period; last paid on June 30 by Capt. Howell. He is listed as absent on detached service as a teamster. Teamsters were responsible for driving wagons in long supply trains and also cared for the livestock used to pull these wagons. Because supplies could have been hauled from far distances, it is unclear if John was near the 24th Mississippi during the months he worked as a teamster or if the supply train took him far from the men he served. During July, the regiment moved to Chattanooga and then marched to Kentucky. Records of their time in Kentucky are meager, but the 24th Mississippi appears to have been a part of Col. T. M. Jones’s Brigade and saw action in the Battle of Perryville, one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, on October 8. After the battle, the Confederates retreated through the Cumberland Gap to east Tennessee, was transferred back to Chattanooga, and then advanced toward Nashville.
November 1862 – January 1863
John appears on the company’s muster rolls for this period, but remains absent on detached service as a teamster. He is owed $50. During his absence, the 24th Mississippi saw action at the Battle of Stones River (or Second Battle of Murfreesboro) on December 31 – January 2. Although a Union victory, the regiment — supported by an Alabama regiment — was credited with the capture of a battery near the Wilkinson pike. The army fell back to the line of Duck Creek after the battle and then to Chattanooga.
February – March 1863
John appears on the company’s muster rolls for this period; last paid on December 31 by Capt. Reid. He continues teamster duty, and the roll states his duty was by order of Gen. Anderson on September 12.
John appears on a roll of non-commissioned officers and privates employed on extra duty as “Pulaski Team” from April 1 – 30. Another list indicates John was in Shelbyville, Tennessee, and notes he was on teamster duty since September 8, 1862, by orders of Gen. Anderson.
May 10, 1863
John appears on a register of payments; he was paid $44 by Capt. Maurice for his service from January 1 – April 30.
July – August 1863
John appears on the company’s muster rolls for this period. His detached teamster duty continues by order of Gen. Anderson, this time noted as beginning on September 6, 1862. John was last paid by Capt. Maurice. In August 1863, the 24th Mississippi moved from Chattanooga to Georgia.
September 30, 1863
John appears on a receipt roll, receiving payment for his service as a teamster from September 1 – 30. His rate of pay is $0.25. While John was working as a teamster, the 24th Mississippi fought in the Battle of Chickamauga, which had the second highest number of casualties in the war following Gettysburg.
John appears on a roll of non-commissioned officers and privates employed on extra duty as a teamster at Ringgold, Georgia, from October 1 – 22. The 24th Mississippi followed the federal army to Chattanooga after the Battle of Chickamauga.
The regiment was posted on the slopes of Lookout Mountain and saw intense fighting at the Battle of Lookout Mountain on November 24. The remnant of the 24th Mississippi also saw action the following day at the Battle of Missionary Ridge.
January – April 1864
John appears on the company’s muster rolls for this period. He is present — his detachment as a teamster ending sometime since October– and last paid on December 31 by Capt. Craft. The 24th Mississippi made its winter quarters at Dalton, Georgia, during this period.
April 30, 1864
John appears on a receipt roll for clothing.
John appears on a list of casualties in Walthall’s Brigade for the period of May 7 – 20 in the operations around Dalton, Georgia, including the Battle of Resaca on May 14 – 15. John was listed as slightly wounded. The 24th Mississippi left winter camp at Dalton on May 7, and took up position at Alt’s Gap. After several position changes, John’s regiment was located in the entrenched front line at Resaca on May 14. They repulsed two charges by the Union army, but sustained heavy losses from artillery and sharpshooters. The fighting continued into May 15. Sometime during this fighting, John was slightly wounded and captured by the Union army.
May 15, 1864
John appears on a register of Prisoners of War compiled by the Union Army’s Department of the Cumberland at Nashville, Tennessee. He was captured that day in Resaca, Georgia.
May 19, 1864
John was received at the Military Prison in Louisville, Kentucky, and appears on a roll of Prisoners of War. Remarks include only “Nashville”.
May 22, 1864
John arrives at Camp Morton in Indianapolis, Indiana, transferred from the Military Prison in Louisville. He appears on the POW roll of this prison for the next 12 months. Camp Morton was one of the larger of the Union’s eight POW camps. When John arrived, Camp Morton was overcrowded and badly needed repairs. Although rations were deemed sufficient, prisoners rarely received fresh fruits or vegetables. The winters were bitterly cold, and the hot summers resulted in the rampant spread of malaria. The camp’s average prisoner population was 3,214 men; approximately 50 prisoners died per month.
May 22, 1865
Exactly a year to the date of his arrival, John is released from Camp Morton after taking the Oath of Allegiance. His signature appears on the oath, and his place of residence is listed as Carthage, Mississippi. John’s physical description is recorded as “Complexion: dark; hair: dark; eyes: hazel; height 5 ft, 8.5 inches.” He was one of the last groups of prisoners released from Camp Morton.
John returned home to Carthage, Mississippi, upon his release from Camp Morton. On her application for a widow’s pension, John’s wife Malinda reports he arrived home from a northern prison on June 7, 1865.
John and the 24th Mississippi saw many intense battles and sustained many casualties during the war. John’s life was possibly spared by his work as a teamster, as he was often on detached duty during battlefield engagements. However, supply trains were valuable military targets, and John would have been in danger during these assignments. Despite the danger and uncertainty, John remained faithful to his enlistment promise and served for the duration of the war.
Compiled Service Record for John Johnston, Private, Company E, 24th Mississippi in “Mississippi, Civil War Service Records of Confederate Soldiers, 1861-1865.” Database. FamilySearch.http://FamilySearch.org : 14 June 2016. From “Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Mississippi.” Database. Fold3.com. http://www.fold3.com : n.d. Citing NARA microfilm publication M323. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1961.
Malinda Johnston, widow’s pension application (unnumbered); service of John Johnston (Private, Company E, 24th Mississippi, Civil War) “Louisiana Confederate Pensions, 1898-1950.” Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : 14 June 2016. State Archives, Baton Rouge.
Rowland, Dunbar. Military History of Mississippi, 1803-1898: Taken from the Official and Statistical Register of the State of Mississippi, 1908. Spartanburg, S.C: Reprint Co, 1978. Print.